A young Red Deer woman is being rewarded for her outstanding commitment to cross-country running with a scholarship towards her nursing studies.
Dina Iatrou, who has been a serious runner for several years, will be heading to the University of Lethbridge this fall. Her passion for running was originally encouraged by her mom Dawn – and it’s something that, to this day, the pair enjoy doing together. Dina has also become a very disciplined and dedicated cross-country runner in her own right – she trains all year long regardless of the weather and absolutely loves it.
“I went down to Lethbridge and met the coaches and the team, and I think it was just before I was accepted that they presented a scholarship offer which was really exciting,” explains Dina, adding that the Jimmie Condon Athletic Scholarship is for cross-country running and track and field.
But there were others offers to be sure. “After she placed fifth in provincials, she started getting letters from other schools in Alberta,” says Dawn. Dina did visit the other schools, but ultimately settled on Lethbridge. “I really liked it when I went down,” she said, adding that it will be terrific to be a part of the running team there as well as she juggles that with her studies. “I loved it the most.”
Dina, 17, started off her athletic pursuits in Grade 6 with swimming. “I was always interested in sports. Then I started cross-country running in Grade 9.” Her interest in it was sparked when she and Dawn would practice ahead of the annual Dawe Run back when she was in Grade 4. “We would train together, and I liked it then. But I was also really focused on my swimming at the time,” she recalls.
But as the years passed, running came more to the forefront in her life. In Grade 10, the Hunting Hills High School student took part in cross-country provincials and saw firsthand really what it was all about.
“I saw everyone at the podium, and just seeing the racing in general – I really fell in love with it,” she says with a smile. She recalls seeing the top 10 that year at the podium and thinking that’s exactly where she wanted to be. So swimming took a back seat so she could focus squarely on her running.
“I wanted to make that top 10 so I could compete in nationals in Vancouver.”
She credits her coach Brian Johnson at Hunting Hills with being such a solid support throughout her growth as a runner. “He helped me out a lot with setting my goals and with workouts so I’d be able to make that top 10.
“I then went to Vancouver which was a really cool experience – really different then any other race I had run before.”
This past summer, she worked hard to improve her performance that much more. “I wanted to place in the top 10, but I wanted to place higher then I had the year before,” she said. “I worked with my coaches, putting in more effort that I did last year.”
The hard work paid off – as mentioned, she landed fifth in provincials last October. So again, she was off to Vancouver for the Canadian Cross-Country Championships the following month and did better than she did the previous year among the more than 100 other runners within her age group.
For her part, Dawn has been a long-time runner as well. “When Dina started with the Dawe Run, I’d say, let’s go out together and practice. She was really involved in her swimming too, but I got her into triathlon, so we would go out and practice for that too.”
As cross-country running became more a part of Dina’s life, Dawn suggested she join the school’s running team. “And now, we run together when Dina does her ‘slow’ runs,” laughs Dawn. During her training, Dina will alternate between slow and fast runs.
“I’ll do hard workouts three days a week, and then on another three days I’ll do easy runs,” she explains. Easy runs equal 7 to 9 km and as mentioned earlier, bad weather doesn’t stop her. It has to be extremely cold – in the neighbourhood of -30C – before she won’t venture outdoors for a run.
“It makes me feel so good – I love the feeling afterword – that’s one of the best parts, I think. That ‘runner’s high’ is a real thing,” she laughs. “It’s also about setting your own goals and achieving your own goals.
“I’ve learned a lot about commitment and discipline.”
Dawn describes her love for running in much the same way. “I love running, too, and how it makes me feel. It affects your mental outlook, and just how you feel about things. You feel fit, you feel happy. I just wanted (my kids) to have that too.”
Dina adds that it really has become a ‘family’ thing. On May 9th, they will be hitting the trails at River Bend Golf and Recreation Area while taking part in the Only Women’s Fitness Fun Run.
“It’s a great community event, to get everyone out and more excited about the sport,” said Dina. Dawn agrees. “It’s all ages. People that don’t normally run are even out there taking part.
“For a mom, to be able to take your girls out there – it’s something fun and active that you can do together. You’re outside enjoying the day, it’s awesome to be able to do things like that.”
The fourth annual event is in support of Women’s Outreach.
Val Jensen spearheaded the event, and she’s passionate about getting as many women and girls from across the region involved as much as possible. At the inaugural run, about 250 participants signed up. Last year, there were almost 900.
There are several different races during the day – participants can walk or run 10km, 5km, 3km or 1km. There is also the 500m Little Ladies Race and 100m Diaper Dash.
Online registration closes May 7th at midnight, although registration will be open on site right up until the race start on May 9th.
To register for the Only Women’s Fitness Fun Run, visit www.onlywomenrd.ca or www.womensoutreach.ca or email email@example.com.